The College of Fine Arts Division of Theatre and Dance at Jacksonville University opened a two-weekend run of EURYDICE by playwright Sarah Ruhl. The play continues at Swisher Theatre on the campus of JU on November 1, 2 at 7:30 PM, with a final performance on Sunday November 3, at 3:00 PM. For tickets, call 256-7677, for further information about the play or upcoming performances, see
Sarah Ruhl has taken the classic Greek myth of Orpheus and looked at it through the eyes of his wife, Eurydice. The original emphasized the life of Orpheus, a supremely gifted musician, who charmed the wild animals of antiquity with his lyre, and who tried to bring his dead wife back to life with his music. In this interesting version, shortly after the completion of their wedding ceremony, she leaves the festivities to get a drink of water, and receives news of a letter from her deceased father. While trying to retrieve the letter, she falls down a set of stairs, dies, and enters the Underworld, where she is reunited with her father. When Orpheus makes his way to the Underworld to rescue her, she must decide whether to remain with her father or to return to the life her husband offers.
DEBORAH JORDAN, JU’s Program Head for Acting and Directing, selected the play and the accomplished cast of unique characters.
SYDNEY DEAL in the leading role of Eurydice is excellent. She is only a freshman and has been on the campus less than three months but brings an impressive acting resume from her hometown of Sarasota, Florida. Ms. Deal’s physical appearance reminded us of the late actress Sandy Dennis.
MATT ROBERTSON as Orpheus is making his JU debut as well, as a young man who loves Eurydice and proposes marriage, but also seems obsessively concerned with his music. A devotion to his craft is just what would have been needed to become the most notable musician of the classical Greek world, and Mr. Robertson delivers this traditional view of Orpheus.
The only non-student in the production, LEONARD ALTERMAN, has been in over fifty plays locally over a long career. This is the first time he has acted on a university or college stage and he is picture perfect as the caring and nurturing father.
We know this play sounds terribly serious, since it concerns life and death, but one character provides comic relief in two guises, as a Nasty Interesting Man and the Lord of the Underworld. JU senior DAVID BILBRAY, who was hilarious as Ira Stone in JU’s “Laughter on the 23rd Floor,” certainly matches that performance here. We loved his zebra striped pants, very appropriate for a play done during Halloween week.
Three colorful residents of the underworld also provided many comic moments as sort of a Greek chorus. They are known as the three stones, with ASHLEY JONES as Little Stone, ALEXIS LINKS as Loud Stone, and WAYNE WOODSON as Big Stone.
Associate Professor of Music at JU, SCOTT WATKINS, as Musical Director, created original music for this production that captured the often mercurial emotions and moods.
Technical Director/Sound Designer BRANDON LETTOW certainly had his hands full with all the special effects that included interesting fog effects and an elevator from earth to the underground.
Set and Lighting Designer BEN WILSON’s set is thought-provoking and effective. It includes back lit panels, with changing colors, views of the ocean, a staircase, and a large iron gate between massive columns that is the entrance to the Underworld. Flames are a prominent theme.
Sally Pettegrew’s costumes kept things casual and modern for the leading characters, with the father wearing a business like coat and tie in subtle tones. The three Stones and the Lord of the Underworld were much more colorful. KATARINA HOWELL, as Stage Manager, smoothly handled the some 140 cues that this show required in the 85 minutes of running time.
We suggest that if you are planning to see this play, read the excellent director’s note prepared by Deborah Jordan before the play begins. Even theatre students and playgoers who are knowledgeable about Greek mythology will find it helpful.
This is your opportunity to experience a Sara Ruhl play, a very interesting playwright. Two of her plays have been produced in North Florida. Players by the Sea did “In The Next Room or The Vibrator Play,” and Limelight and the Hippodrome both staged “Dead Man’s Cell Phone.”
Be prepared to enter a very different theatrical world with this production. In the lobby of Swisher Theatre, JU will give you the opportunity to write a letter to someone you have loved and lost, just as letters are used to communicate between the living and the dead in the play.
The campus has ample parking, which is free and well-lit. Ticket prices are $15, discounted to $10 for seniors and $5 for students and children.